In the four years since she released her self-titled debut, Santigold’s genre-blending approach has gone global, with artists like Rihanna to Nicki Minaj throwing hip-hop, dub, rock and reggae into a melting pot and calling it pop. So it’s little surprise that on her second record, Santigold still sounds like Santigold. Like they were on her debut, the songs here are centered around buoyant rhythms, blending bright synths with White’s bobbing, dancehall delivery. The biggest change on Master of My Make-Believe is in the lyrics. The Santigold of 2008 was a streetwise finger-pointer taking aim at the world’s poseurs. In 2012, White has her fist raised, writing anthems about social unrest.
Master begins with White singing about jealous power-stealers over a demonic synth line and sharp, thwacking percussion. But it’s the next track, “Disparate Youth,” with its tender vocal melody and stuttering beats, that’s more indicative of the album’s sound. “Don’t look ahead/ There’s stormy weather,” White says, before resolving, “But if we go/ We go together.” She’s singing about unified struggle, but her language is vague enough that the songs never seem preachy or dogmatic. Compared to the ratatat drumline on “Big Mouth” or the club-style whomping on “Fame,” her rallying cries seem almost sedate. But White’s too rambunctious to resort to straight-up balladry. Even at her most unguarded, on “The Riot’s Gone,” where she sings, rather than spits, there’s still a militaristic drum beat punching holes in the atmosphere. Against moments of such straight-faced, socially aware seriousness, “Look At These Hoes” and “Freak Like Me” feel forced and unnatural. Better that she leave these to her mainstream peers and embrace her evolution.